Foundations Mentor Support Camps


Many California overnight camps have philanthropies to thank for their success as enrollment and interest in Jewish camp increases. Programs such as One Happy Camper and the Grinspoon Institute are helping send first-time campers to camp and offering free consulting to the camps, respectively.

“This is a winning product that is creating a more vibrant Jewish future,” Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), said. “When you have a winner, you invest in it. Not only are we doing it, but we are encouraging others in North America to invest in Jewish camp because it works. It creates Jewish leaders, it creates more engaged Jewish adults.”

The foundations are doing more than throwing money at the cause. In an effort to make camps more self-sufficient, they are also helping improve the fundraising abilities of camps by providing financial incentives intended to encourage professional development among board members and camp staff.

FJC has established a number of programs to help Jewish camps across the country, such as leadership training and helping counselors become more effective Jewish mentors.

Perhaps the biggest initiative FJC created is One Happy Camper — an incentive program that provides up to $1,500 in a grant to first-year campers to help them attend Jewish overnight camps. The JWest Program, a subgroup of One Happy Camper, operating in 13 Western states (including California), expects to send about 1,600 children and teens to camp this summer. An additional 8,000 to 8,500 campers will receive the One Happy Camper grant across the nation.

FJC, which is based in New York City, partners with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to provide service to California camps. Julie Platt, who serves as both the chair of Ensuring the Jewish Future as well as the chair of the Jewish Camping Initiative at L.A. Federation, said the Federation has committed more than $250,000 to the One Happy Camper initiative for Los Angeles-area campers. That number was then matched by FJC to bring the total to about $500,000, which will help send about 500 L.A.-area campers to camp this summer.

Alan Friedman, the executive director of Camp Mountain Chai, said the One Happy Camper program “had a huge impact on our camp and all of the Jewish camps. By [providing] incentives, Jewish families try Jewish camp instead of something else during the summer.”

Friedman cited others reasons his camp has increased enrollment but said One Happy Camper was a big factor. In 2005, Camp Mountain Chai, in the San Bernaradino Mountains, had about 125 campers. This summer, it expects an enrollment of nearly 525. The Grinspoon Institute helped accommodate that growth as well.

While One Happy Camper sends thousands of kids to camp, The Grinspoon Institute in Massachusetts is helping Jewish overnight camps around the country by providing camp management consulting. The Grinspoon Institute, a group within the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, sends consulting mentors to camps directly to improve the camp’s board of directors, its strategic planning and fundraising.

“What they do is they just don’t give you money,” said Bill Kaplan, executive director with the Shalom Institute. “They make you figure out how to create systems, which is great, so you can do it on your own in the future.”

Kaplan, who has worked with the Grinspoon Institute for several years, said fundraising for the Shalom Institute and Camp JCA Shalom, both in Malibu, has tripled since working with the Grinspoon Institute. Kaplan said Grinspoon also helped make their board more effective and helped with strategic planning for the future of the Shalom Institute.

“They are providing the service for free, which is pretty amazing,” Kaplan said. “I mean, it’s worth thousands and thousands of dollars.”

Grinspoon works with about 80 camps around the country. Mark Gold, the director of the Grinspoon Institute, cited an old expression about helping camps in the long run.

“Don’t give them a fish,” Gold said. “Teach them to fish.”

Gold said the Grinspoon Institute would increase or decrease involvement with helping camps depending on the need of the camp. The Grinspoon Institute also publishes a lot of its advice online through webinars for organizations that aren’t necessarily primary clients.

“If we’ve got secondary clients that we don’t even know about, that’s good, too,” Gold said.

The Grinspoon Institute is in its eighth year and is the brainchild of the successful entrepreneur Harold Grinspoon.

“I owe all of this wealth that I have accumulated to my Jewish genes,” Grinspoon said. “I think I have a responsibility to give back that well to the Jewish people because they are in need of it.”

Although he never attended camp as a child, Grinspoon said that he frequently visits camps around the country during the summer.

“I just love being near all the positive energy,” he said.

The work of these philanthropies has already made an impression on the camps. Kaplan said enrollment at Camp JCA Shalom during the last three years is the highest it has ever been. Kaplan, who first came into contact with Camp JCA Shalom in 1976 as a camper, has seen the evolution of the business firsthand.

“I don’t think camps 20 years ago had development directors,” Kaplan said, as an example. “Now we have development directors.”

The complexity of each camp also has never been higher.

“Camps are running more like a business,” Kaplan said. “There’s more professionalism and more expectations than ever before.”

Communities can use High Holy Days to help ease economic angst


With the start of the High Holy Days, the pace of communal life starts to change, and our focus is on reflection, reconciliation, repentance and the annual response to new beginnings.

For too many in our community, however, this season will hold more angst than joy.

The economic situation in our country presents us with challenges unseen for nearly a generation. Too many will sit in synagogues through this season and be equally concerned with their own economic situation as they will the state of their soul. Increasingly, senior citizens on fixed or limited incomes are seeing their resources challenged. Young adults are concerned about job security. Too many of our people of all ages have lost jobs, been downsized or live on the edge of job and financial uncertainty.

This reality presents our community with a unique and necessary opportunity to become an even more meaningful “caring community.” This is a time when no one should be left to feel that they are “l’vado” (alone). This is a time for community and relationships to be enhanced and expanded, so that our congregations can be seen as responsive to and involved with those who are hurting.

In every community are untapped human resources: people who may have some time to give, who have experienced life and, if asked, might be willing to assist leadership in developing support systems for individuals and families in need. At the least, a call can be made to members who have experience in the workplace, who have counseled people in job changes and career moves.

Establishing a congregational or communal service corps with members willing to give advice and direction — or just lend a sympathetic ear to those who might be searching for new directions — is one possible course of action.

During a similar economic downturn in the early 1980s, I worked in Philadelphia and was involved in helping congregations create a communitywide job bank. It had some success helping people in our community get back to work. We simply polled the members of the community’s congregations for possible job openings and advertised those openings throughout the area so members could see what was available from those within their own community.

This could be done again. Synagogues can join other local organizations, JCCs, Jewish Family Service and others to broaden the base of opportunities to search. Even in this day of electronic and Internet job searches, personal networking and relationships go a long way in opening doors.

A difficulty in some of this may be the unwillingness on the part of many to come forward. So often we face this challenge of having people admit they may need some assistance, guidance or help in establishing goals. Transitions are tough and filled with fear. But let us not forget the power of the pulpit. The simple act of the rabbi offering a sermon on the need for this type of caring “inreach” can help worshipers see their congregation as more than a life-cycle institution.

The High Holy Days are a perfect example of a moment in time when Jews attend synagogue. Why not take a few moments at each service to launch this internal support network? Why not have in each prayer book a form that someone can fill out who has a job opening or position request, or has a willingness to give time to counsel or advise a fellow congregant on career change and possibilities?

Use your caring community committee to organize these forms and launch, right after Yom Kippur, a Sukkot of Transition so that all can feel the possibility of a “sukkat shalom.”

We soon will enter our season of possibilities. In each of our communities there are those we need to support and those with the ability to create that sense of support and caring. All we need to do is ask.

Rabbi Richard F. Address is the director of Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns (www.urj.org/jfc).

Article courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

VIDEO: In 2006, Lieberman calls Obama ‘Baruch’ and himself Obama’s mentor


Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn)  on his hopes and dreams for Barack Obama, March 2006:

“As far as I’m concerned [Barack Obama] is a ‘Baruch,’ which means a blessing. He is a blessing to the United States Senate, to America, and to our shared hopes for better, safer tomorrows for all our families. The gifts that God has given to Barack Obama are as enormous as his future is unlimited. As his mentor, as his colleague, as his friend, I look forward to helping him reach to the stars and realize not just the dreams he has for himself, but the dreams we all have for him and our blessed country.”

Iranian American Jews mentoring new generation of leaders


“It’s amazing. It’s awesome,” Nicole Lavi said. “I have an older ‘sister.'”

Lavi, 17, a senior at Beverly Hills High School, reached over to Donna Pouladian, 23. “She’s the best. I love her,” Nicole said.

The two were meeting in person for only the second time, but already they’d discovered many common characteristics — both are outgoing and energetic, both have an older brother and both want a career that will help people.

And most pertinent, both are Iranian American Jews born in the United States and assimilated into American society but raised by parents steeped in the culture and traditions of Iran.

Pouladian, who is finishing her doctorate in occupational therapy at USC, and Lavi are part of a pioneering Young Iranian Jewish Leadership Program developed to give motivated Iranian American high school students the direction, encouragement and skills needed to shine as professional and community leaders.

This is a project of 30 Years After, an organization founded a year ago to engage the Iranian Jewish community more intensely in American civic life and the broader Jewish community, in partnership with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills’ Nessah Synagogue.

On this night, the two young women are one of 11 pairs of mentees and mentors — Los Angeles area high school students matched with successful young professionals in their 20s and 30s — who have gathered at Berri Good on South Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills to chat, play board games and feast on frozen yogurt, competing against a background of piped-in hip-hop techno music.

Some, like mentee Aaron Eslamboly, 17, and mentor Sam Yebri, 27, sit together at a table, swapping life histories and aspirations.

For Eslamboly, a junior at Santa Monica High School with dreams of becoming a journalist, lawyer and/or entrepreneur, it’s an opportunity to explore those options one-on-one with Yebri, an attorney.

“My parents are not as immersed in American culture as Sam and the other mentors,” Eslamboly said, adding that he and other Persian American high schoolers feel pressure from their parents to be successful.

The genesis of the Young Iranian Jewish Leadership Program can be traced to Nessah member Fariba Behnam, who helped organize a Career Day panel for students at Milken Community High School. “This is something the Persian community needs,” she thought at the time.

Later, in April 2007, Behnam convened two panels of young professionals at Nessah Synagogue to speak to an estimated crowd of 350 high school students and their parents, allowing them to see that different professional paths — such as careers in entertainment, engineering and psychology — were available, in addition to the standard occupations in business, law and medicine.

Afterward, the panel participants, most of whom had not previously met, remarked about how they wished they had had someone to help them navigate the challenges and decisions regarding colleges, careers and community involvement.

But what the panel discussion couldn’t do was provide meaningful opportunities for individual mentoring, according to Yebri, co-founder of 30 Years After.

Thus, a series of discussions ensued between Morgan Hakimi, a psychologist and president of Nessah Synagogue, and representatives from Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and 30 Years After. And the Young Iranian Jewish Leadership Program, which Hakimi said is revolutionary for the Iranian Jewish community but generally welcomed, took form.

Hakimi sees the program as an effective means to bridge the gap for a generation going through an identity struggle.

“It will help these kids cherish the traditions and identity of their parents, but meanwhile practice and live as American Jews,” she said, ideally resulting in what she calls the “Iranian American descended community.”

Nessah is providing meeting space, food, public relations and some financial support, while 30 Years After is creating activities and coordinating the overall program.

For Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, it is “important to reach populations in new ways,” according to Dan Witzling, director of communications. Thus the organization, with its long history of mentoring and administrative expertise, interviewed potential mentors and mentees, conducted background checks, trained the mentors and made the matches.

Eleven mentors were chosen, receiving an initial one-and-a-half-hour group-training session that was facilitated by Ze’ev Korn, director of school-based mentoring at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The training helped the mentors understand that they are not therapists, parents, classroom teachers or occasional ATMs, said Korn, who explained that ideal qualities in a mentor include “listening, empathy and curiosity as to who this [mentee] uniquely is and uniquely wants to become.”

Korn added, “The gift they give to the young person is themselves, with all their limitations.”

To give mentees a full range of possible opportunities, mentors and mentees are not matched according to specific career goals but rather by common interests, needs and strengths and personality characteristics.

The inaugural group has committed to the program for a full year and met for the first time on April 8. The long-term goal is to come together as a group twice a month, with one event or workshop focused on a substantive topic such college or social justice and another purely social, such as bowling, where mentors and mentees can continue to forge deeper relationships.

Additionally, optional activities will be offered such as “You, Me & the Troops,” a community service event sponsored by Nessah and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, which took place on Sunday, May 25. Mentors and mentees were invited to help assemble care packages for American soldiers serving in Iraq.

The current program has openings for two mentees. And next fall, according to Yebri, the Young Iranian Jewish Leadership Program will expand to include a second contingent of two-dozen mentors and mentees, who will also sign on for a full year.

In the meantime, the Young Iranian Jewish Leadership Program gives successful twentysomething and thirtysomething professionals a grass-roots, cost-free opportunity to give back to the Jewish and American communities and to inspire and guide a new generation of Iranian American Jews.

Many of the mentees already expect the program to extend beyond a one-year relationship.

“I’m building a friend for life,” said mentee Lavi.

For those interested in becoming involved, contact Jewish Big Brothers at C323) 761-8675. For more information:

30 Years After,
Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and
Nessah Synagogue.

AUDIO: Iranian American Jews — New mentoring program grooms tomorrow’s leaders


Young Iranian American Jewish professionals discuss their involvement with a new mentoring program for teenagers in the community.

” title=”Iranian American Jews”>Iranian American Jews blog.

Students remind General Assembly they’ve got a lot to give, too


In 1969, a group of college students staged a protest at the premiere gathering of the organized Jewish community, demanding more say and more attention to issues that mattered to them — such as Soviet Jewry, Jewish identity and culture. They also wanted a younger voice to be heard within Jewish power structures.
 
The demonstrations and vocal disruptions at the Boston General Assembly — an annual gathering of federation and other communal leaders — lead to the formation of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, which was funded by federations until 1995.
Ever since then, students have been a part of the GA, which this year is taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center Nov. 12-15.
 
As it has for many years, Hillel — the international student organization that is supported in part by federations — will host 300 student delegates, many of them leaders on their campuses.
 
The students, who registered at a reduced rate, will participate in regular conference sessions and a Monday night program of film and interactive activities that will expose students to new approaches to building Jewish communities.
 
But Hillel is trying something new to expose even more students to the organized Jewish community — and to demonstrate to the community that students care.
 
On Sunday, Nov. 12, 1,000 college students from Southern California schools and from universities across the country, including GA participants, will be deployed across Los Angeles to do social justice work. They will lend a hand at more than 20 community service projects, such as the Beit T’Shuvah rehab residence, the Venice Family Clinic, the Midnight Mission and Heal the Bay. The program, called “Just for a Day,” will end with an exclusive concert by GUSTER and the LeeVees at the Henry Fonda Theater.

“We know that community service and social justice are the best ways of engaging students, so by doing that in conjunction with the GA we are letting the students know about the larger Jewish community,” said David Levy, director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council.

About 30 students are also participating through a journalism track called Do the Write Thing, sponsored by World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Press Association.

Student journalists get access to high-level politicians, publishers and editors, and this year will focus on Israel’s image in the media.
Many of the issues that faced students in 1969 still linger today — how to make the established community understand the desire for culture and identity, for spirituality, to get the oldsters to listen to the younger generation’s concerns.

And with today’s wired movers communicating and connecting in entirely different ways, cross-generational interface becomes even more challenging.

“This is a qualitatively different generation,” Levy said. “The whole way we organize is not the way they organize, and the pressures that used to be on students are not the same as they are now.”

Student identity has become more complex, as a generation raised by multitaskers comes of age.
 
“Students have multiple identities and multiple parts of their identities — like windows open on a computer screen. They have multiple windows open at one time — Israel, spirituality, social justice, being a sorority member. We need to give them an opportunity to connect through whichever window happens to be open at that moment, and working within one window can lead to others and strengthens them all,” Levy said.
 
That multipronged identity, and the desire for real-life community, carries through to college graduates as well, as young 20- and 30-somethings try to integrate into the Jewish community.
 
“The age of wine and cheese is over,” said Rhoda Weisman, director of Professional Leadership Project, which inspires and mentors young people for work in the Jewish community. “They are looking for a deep connection to the Jewish people — a meaningful connection. There is a search for spiritual depth and intellectual depth, and a very great need for community among them.”
 
About 100 competitively selected leaders in their 20s and 30s are part of Weisman’s Live Network, which every few weeks brings participants together at five regional hubs for seminars in leadership skills, Jewish content, case studies and personal development. The first cohort will soon begin year two, which will entail working with each other and experienced mentors to develop and follow through on a project.

At the GA, 10 participants in the Professional Leadership Project will be teamed up with seasoned Jewish communal leaders.
 
“The purpose is for them is to shadow some of the influential leaders, professional and volunteer, to learn about the inside workings of the Jewish community and to make connections for the future,” Weisman said.

The young leaders will also be filming a documentary, interviewing people of all ages at the GA about how the next generation of leaders can affect the community, and what sort of changes they can or should make. The film will be posted on the Web.

Mostly, Weisman hopes their presence will have an impact — both by allowing established leaders to dialogue with the up-and-comings, and by helping participants learn about existing organizations and structures to see where they can contribute.
 
“You can’t change things unless you already know what is happening,” Weisman said.
 
At the same time, she encourages the young leaders to integrate themselves into the existing community.
 
“Whether it’s by working with an established organization or creating a new one, you have to be connected to the greater Jewish community,” Weisman said.

For information, go to www.hillel.org, www.wzo.org.il/en/dtwt/ or www.jewishleaders.net
 

Su temple es mi casa


It’s 103 degrees in Hollywood, and I’m schvitzing. As I head up the stairs at my synagogue, Tony Guerrero and I exchange greetings.

As usual, he’s looking sharp: pressed
slacks, a clean white button-down shirt, and today — a tie and a kippah.
“Tony,” I ask incredulously, “how can you wear that tie in this heat — don’t you want to at least loosen it a bit?”

“No way,” he answers. “It’s Shabbat.”

His answer impresses me, but it no longer surprises me. For although Guerrero is a Mexican American non-Jew, I have come to understand just how intensely he has embraced the Jewish community and how genuinely at home he feels here.

Non-Jews are common at many Jewish facilities, ensuring the smooth operation of our institutions — understanding and anticipating the needs of members, meeting the standards of our practices. But Guerrero’s story is more than the tale of someone “other” who happens to work among “us.” To hear Guerrero tell it, he has learned both the most fundamental and profound of life’s lessons by being among Jews.

At Temple Israel of Hollywood, where my family has belonged for 10 years, Guerrero attends to all facets of our building’s use: repairs, maintenance, security, and more. He is striking for his efficiency, his quiet presence and the way in which he brings — for lack of a better word — a haimishness to his work. The way he sees it, he’s not just our facilities manager, he’s also “a psychiatrist, a referee … a jack-of-all-trades.”

Born in Mexico, Guerrero came to the United States at the age of 5 with his mother. He quickly adapted to Southern California, acquiring skills that his family came to depend upon. When his uncle needed a new part for his car, Guerrero went along to translate for him. Impressed by the 10-year-old’s maturity and English skills, the owner of the auto shop, Arthur Louis Richman, offered him a job cleaning up after school.

Guerrero learned that Richman was a nonobservant Jew who “had no kids, no family.” He found ways to be useful — and Richman both encouraged and challenged him. By the time Guerrero was 11, he was spending every afternoon and weekend at the shop, and his relationship with Richman became “like a father-and-son thing.”

Through observation and initiative, Guerrero learned much by Richman’s side. Whether the lessons involved auto repairs, coin collecting, or interpersonal behavior, “[Richman] was a perfectionist; he was a very smart man.”

When Guerrero started getting into trouble as a teenager, Richman took him to a boxing gym. At the age of 16, Guerrero had his first amateur fight; at 18 he turned pro.

After four pro fights — he won them all — Guerrero decided he wanted out: “I was just too young to deal with all the pressure.”

Around the same time, his mentor retired.

“After I stopped boxing and he sold his business, I didn’t know what to do. I only had [some] high school … and I was striving; I wanted better.”

In 1989, encouraged by Richman, Guerrero applied for a building maintenance job at Valley Cities Jewish Community Center. Although he felt that he was “out of [his] league,” he says, “I [just] told them the truth — that I’d boxed, that I was a mechanic, that I was good with tools, but that … I wanted to learn.” Modestly, Tony admits “I guess they liked the ambition part.”

Tony quickly got to know many of the families there, and he found them more than willing to help him excel. When he needed to upgrade or repair the building he’d “know who to call on [among the families] to learn from … a plumber, or an electrician, or a carpenter.”

But his learning didn’t stop with the tools of his trade.

“I started seeing how important education was, which I didn’t know before,” he said.

With encouragement from people at Valley Cities, Guerrero completed high school and attended community college.

He also saw Jewish family role models worthy of emulation.

“I started seeing how close the fathers were to their kids,” he said.

He was equally impressed with the kids: “Where I grew up, if you [did] something for a kid … the kid would look at you and say, ‘Who are you?’ and use the f-word.”

But the kids at Valley Cities would “say, ‘Good morning, Tony. How are you?’ and ‘Thank you for fixing’ this.’ It really made me a better person.”

His informal education in Judaism took another leap forward about nine years ago, when he accepted his current job at Temple Israel.

“I didn’t know what a tallit was … what a kippah was, what the Torah was,” he said. “I had to catch on [quickly] when I came here.”

Guerrero tells me that he “isn’t religious,” though he was raised as a Catholic. “But I have a lot of faith. I live by the Ten Commandments, and I try to be the best person I can be.”

Noticing the ways Jews “give back to their community,” Guerrero says, “Now, if I’m able to help somebody, I will; before I wasn’t like that.”

As though still surprised by his good fortune, Guerrero quietly confessed that he had been “a lost soul” before he was taken in and “raised by” Richman. Whenever they speak, he says, “I just thank him, thank him, and thank him. He really taught me how to be a good man.”

Working “with Jews for so long, and coming from where I started [can] make you a smart man, make you a nice man. And that’s the kind of people I belong with.”

Letters


Ordinary Child
Dear Rabbi Feinstein: Thank you for your article on “Perfectly Imperfect” (May 5). As educators, we wholeheartedly appreciate your position on making space for the ordinary child.

In our experience as day school educators, we struggle with balancing the parents’ desires for their child’s academic excellence, while supporting each student’s individual capabilities. We make space for our students to be three-dimensional, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging them to stretch where they can.

As you so eloquently say, “God offers a process of repair and renewal and return.” One of the challenges we encounter with perfection is encouraging students to make their next best choice and to reflect on the lessons of their mistakes. As students acknowledge their mistakes and make choices that increase their wisdom, they are making meaning from their experiences that will enhance their lives.

Kedushah and menschlikheit reside very closely in our hearts and in our teachings with both students and parents. We want our students to hear the voices of empathy, generosity and curiosity as they make positive and healthy choices throughout their lives.

Amy Bryman
Cheryl Hersh, Middle School Principal
Inez Tiger, Middle School Counselor Pressman Academy

Jew-by-Choice
As a convert to Judaism, it was reassuring to read your series of articles on those like me who chose to become Jews (“Did It Stick?” June 2). As a lapsed Catholic with many Jewish friends growing up on Long Island, early on, I was attracted to the ethics and worldly focus of Judaism. Following a course of study at Temple Emanuel in New York City, I converted in 1967, and my first wife and I raised our three children in the Jewish tradition.

In 1992 on the eve of her bat mitzvah, my youngest daughter asked if I would be bar mitzvahed with her. That glorious day came to pass at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, with Rabbi Harvey Fields observing that in the 130-year history of the temple, there was no record of a father and daughter having a b’nai mitzvah. At the party afterward, when Tessa and I greeted everyone, I said that I had checked around the room, and I was the only person who had had a first holy communion and a bar mitzvah.

In my life in Los Angeles with my wife, Wendy, inspired by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA and through my work with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, enriched by interfaith activities, Judaism has strengthened and complimented my struggle for civil liberties, human rights, peace and justice.

Stephen F Rohde
Los Angeles

John Fishel
I read with interest recently your column reported by Marc Ballon, concerning John Fishel (“A Private Man,” May 26). What he left out in his analysis is John Fischel’s relationship with his professional staff.

For me, he was both a role model and a mentor. He provided an opportunity for me to learn a great deal about Jewish communal service, about leadership and dedication to the Jewish people. He was forceful in his ability to set forward a vision for those of us who worked with him concerning his expectations of our performance and his commitment to excellence.

We strived together to work toward a better Los Angeles Jewish community, and we did so under the guiding leadership of a man who dedicated himself toward not only building a stronger Los Angeles community but a stronger Jewish community worldwide.

From these very important core values we took a tremendous amount of inspiration in carrying out our daily activities. He should be commended for all that he has done on behalf of the Jewish community and continues to do.

I know that I would not be in the place that I am today without John Fischel’s interest in who I was, what I wanted to achieve and how I could create a path toward my own professional leadership. I am proud to say that I served for eight years as a senior executive under his tutelage, and that today with his help, I am able to serve as a large city executive in the Jewish community of South Palm Beach County.

William S. Bernstein
Boca Raton, Fla.

Mischaracterizations
[Raphael J.] Sonenshein’s logic and mischaracterizations undermine his arguments (“Israel: Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” May 26). Sonenshein writes, “Wars often start because of such mutual misperceptions.”

The first such misperception that could lead to war is that the Bush administration “might even believe that confrontation [with Iran] would increase their public support.” Yet he also writes that the Bush administration is “capable of taking action with or without public support.”

The second such misperception that could lead to war is that the Iranians “have concluded that the [Bush] administration is so weakened that it can be challenged easily.” This may be true, but it’s not due to the actions of the Bush administration (no matter how incompetent). Rather, it is due to the constant bombardment by the media (including Sonenshein) attacking the Bush administration as being incompetent.

Israel is facing real dangers. The Journal could be a valuable contributor to real solutions by publishing more articles with serious ideas for debate and less articles for Bush-bashing.

Kenny Laitin
Los Angeles

Pearl Foundation
The fact that the Daniel Pearl Foundation is — as stated in your June 2 article (“Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story” — trying “to address the root causes of his murder” by promoting “cross-cultural understanding” between the Western and Muslim worlds is very sad. Sad because those of us who haven’t suffered such a loss cannot imagine the grief suffered by Pearl’s parents and how they’re trying to deal with it, and equally sad because people of good will in the Western world still haven’t grasped that one cannot address the “root causes” of jihadist Islam (meaning to make them stop hating and killing Jews and other infidels) by “journalism, music and innovative communication,” any more than Nazism’s desire to slaughter Jews and enslave humanity could have been addressed by such means.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Correction
In the June 2 issue, “Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story,” the Daniel Pearl photo should have been credited to the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Wandering Jew misquoted Irving Brecher in the story, “A Man for All Seasonings,” by Hank Rosenfeld (June 2). Brecher did not say he loved Langer’s deli “for their double-baked rye” bread. He said he loved the deli for its pastrami. We regret the error.

 

You’ll Do Lunch in This Town Again


Powerful women in Hollywood, back in 1978, were as prevalent as communists during the blacklist. Probably even less so.

That’s when Loreen Arbus came to town. A Jewish girl fresh out of college with some summer internships at Cosmopolitan magazine under her belt, Arbus wanted to make a career in television.

And make it she did, becoming the first woman to head up programming for a national network (Showtime and Lifetime), and earning an Emmy nomination for her work as a producer. Now, almost three decades later, the writer, producer and philanthropist has much to be proud of, but one of her crowning glories is The Women’s Luncheon, a monthly gathering of the communications industry’s most powerful women.

“In the beginning I was amazed at how many remarkable people in the industry I was meeting, even though I was brand new,” Arbus told The Journal.

One of those amazing people was Nancy Hutson Perlman. Like Arbus, Perlman, who eventually founded the management company Hutson Management, back then was just starting out. What the two fast friends discovered was that they had a talent for networking. So they decided to hold a small lunch to introduce everyone around.

“We each invited a few people — six or eight people total — and we had a lunch at the Plaza Hotel. We all had a wonderful time — we learned a lot from each other,” Arbus told The Journal airily. “We found ways, things that we talked about that could be helpful to each other.”

Arbus and Perlman decided that if each person could recommend someone else, they’d do it again the following month, and “we could create a network,” Arbus said.

Even though Arbus’ motivation in doing the monthly luncheon was to “build my Rolodex,” she discovered that “it would be a wonderful thing to introduce some of those terrific people I was meeting to others. In numbers we have strength.”

Some early attendees included producers Lynn Roth and Caryn Mandabach.

“I met people along the way and I found that sometimes in a short period of time, the person who was nobody had now landed,” Arbus said.

Those people brought other people, and month after month Arbus and Perlman invited a dozen or so women to connect each month since.

“We began to reach out to a lot of women who had clearly broken through what we didn’t know was called the ‘glass ceiling.’ These women weren’t joiners, they wouldn’t have come to things that we would have met them at,” Arbus said.

The luncheon began to take a shape, with some 30 percent of people they knew; 70 percent they didn’t.

Over the years the luncheon has evolved — to focus on top-level women, rather than entry-level, and to include communications professionals as well as entertainment — but it’s never been canceled. In these 27-plus years of luncheons, once a month in Los Angeles (and once in a while in New York) more than 11,000 women have attended the luncheons, including Sherry Lansing, Wallis Annenberg and Gloria Allred, to name a few.

For some, it was a great place to be in the company of other women.

“There were such good vibes in that room — such a giving feeling among us all at what you had created,” NBC writer and producer Josephine Lyons wrote in a letter of thanks to Arbus. “We all left so much richer — for we had done what you wanted, we ‘networked.'”

For others, the luncheon has brought about great career benefits and moves. For example, author Rona Jaffe, who attended the luncheons both in New York and Los Angeles, met producer Marcy Gross, who made a TV movie from one of her books.

For Arbus herself, it has reaffirmed her belief in the power of women and of strength in numbers.

Back in the days when Arbus worked for Cosmo with Helen Gurley Brown as her mentor, it was believed that if only women were in positions of power, they would help each other. But over the years, as women have indeed broken through that ceiling of glass, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Women do everything but help another woman.

But that’s never been Arbus’ experience.

“I’ve been challenged on it. But I swear on the Bible and the life of my little dog, I have never ever in my entire life personally and professionally interacted with women who weren’t supportive, and if they hadn’t been, I wasn’t aware of it,” Arbus insists. “I can’t say that it isn’t true for others. I’m no judge, but I only know my own self.”

Raised Reform in New York, Arbus had the strongest feminist example laid by her mother, the first woman in New York to be accepted to the Union Theological Seminary.

“She wanted to study all the great religions of the world. And so I had exposure in rather extraordinary ways to religion,” Arbus said. “I’m proud to be Jewish. Jews are extremely philanthropic and generous.”

“There was always an emphasis of giving and giving back,” she explained. “I was always brought up to follow my own path.”

Alternatives to Drugs


“The world exists only because of the innocent breath of
schoolchildren,” attributed to Jewish sages, first century Talmud.

Recent reports of children as early as 2 years old receiving
psychotropic drugs has me worried. How safe are Ritalin and Prozac — the
stimulants and anti-depressants for kids?

Somehow the unresolved question of their effects on a
developing brain has not been answered, and yet, doctors are prescribing them
to young schoolchildren. Daily school problems are now being addressed with drugs
and more drugs.

Too many teachers are frustrated by being told to label
children as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder, or even to suggest Ritalin for problem students. They know that they
have a “problem student” but they do not have the tools, as of yet, to deal
with or recognize what kind of student they are working with.

Educators are being forced to make decisions regarding
placement of their students.

Every once in a while teachers are faced with a student who
won’t fit into the class. It might be he or she lacks emotional or intellectual
growth, or both. At times, the child is simply immature. Since teachers are not
qualified to do the testing, since they are not trained in these fields, what
can they do?

Teachers must ask themselves the following questions:

Why is the student having a hard time in class?

What role does maturity play with this student?

Is it plain boredom or is it a social, emotional or
intelligence problem?

Most teachers are aware of these three kinds of students who
may be doing poorly in class.

We perceive immaturity when children don’t respond in a
correct way. They do not have the tools to express themselves. They simply lack
the social skills. They may, at times, be too smart and need smarter children
to relate to, or they are average but need more time for child’s play. In both
scenarios, the child doesn’t fit in well with the class environment. The child
always acts out and frustrates the entire class.

The slow learner can’t keep up with the class. The student
might have many positive character traits but simply is lost in a class
setting. No matter how many times the teacher addresses the student, the work
is not done. The student cannot understand the instructions and simply cannot
integrate the ongoing instructions and lessons being taught in the class.

The late bloomer, too, suffers from a lack of understanding
of the schoolwork. This child might have good social skills; listens, but still
cannot perform the needed class work. He or she never seems to get things
right. You wonder what’s wrong and what can you do for him or her.

Both the slow learner and the late bloomer will not get the
work done, but have friends in class, while the immature student will get the
work done, but not possess the normal social skills for friends.

Being smart and being sociable are two different markers for
dealing with students.

Here are some suggestions that may help teachers deal with
the three kinds of students

Being smart and mature are two unrelated markers, writes
Dr. Louise Bates Ames and Dr. Joan Ames Chase, in “Don’t Push Your Preschooler”
(HarperCollins, 1981). It is possible that an exceptionally bright child may
have more problems than a slower and not-so-bright child, they say.

“It is important for parents to appreciate that maturity and
intelligence tend to be two separate measures or qualities,” the authors note.
“A child may be obviously very bright, that is, very intelligent, and at the
same time be immature or young for his age.”

If a child is immature, it does not mean that he or she is
not intelligent. The term “superior immature” is often used for that child who
is bright but young for his age. The superior immature child is one who
especially needs protection from the parent or educator who would push him too
early into formal schooling just because he is bright.”

What we need is to be super sensitive to the superior
immature students. The teacher needs to go the extra mile in providing guidelines
for this child. If not, we could have disastrous results. The bright child gets
into all kinds of trouble and shows inappropriate behavior.  This is because
the student is immature and that is the cause of the problem. This answers the
old question of ‘if they are so smart then shouldn’t they know better?’ The
answer is that they are not emotionally ready for a regular classroom
environment.

In dealing with the slow learner we must be cognizant that
the slow learner remains a slow learner all his/her life. They never catch up,
repeating the same class for one or two years will destroy the student. As
being bigger, older and placed with younger and smaller children destroys the
self-esteem of this student. So what do we do?

What the teacher may need to do is address the student’s
needs now while remaining in the appropriate class. The school must provide a
one-to-one instructor where the slow learner will learn, however, at his own
pace. We must keep the child with his peer group-class at any cost. A teacher’s
aide or volunteer will be needed. The teacher will need to set different goals
and tasks for this slow learner.

Is the slow learner getting the survival skills like reading
and basic arithmetic? No amount of in-class or homework will take care of the
above-mentioned concern. The teacher and supervisor will need to make the
appropriate accommodation now while the child is in the proper age group and
keeping his self-esteem. Survival skills must be the goal for the student.

“The New Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson (Tyndale
House, 1996) states: “The slow learner is unlike the later bloomer in one major
respect: Time will not resolve his deficiency. He will not do better next year.
In fact, he tends to get further behind as he grows older.”

The late bloomer is the easiest student to work with. There
is an expression “what time does the mind doesn’t.” The late bloomer will bloom
a bit later and catch up with his peers. He just needs some extra time. A late
bloomer will unquestionably catch up and do well with his age and peer group.

However, it is the responsibility of the school and teachers
to protect the student from being mislabeled as a “slow learner” that never
catches up.

When teachers are aware of the different kinds of students,
we become better teachers. By knowing the needs of the different students, we
can help them stay in school and become a true asset to society and a joy to
their parents. Teachers have the power to empower the student with self-esteem
thus giving them the much-needed ingredient for success. Yes, each child has
different gifts and it’s our job to teach to the child’s capabilities.

By realizing that a classroom has all kinds of students,
realistic expectations are met. The teacher feels a real sense of accomplishment
and when that happens, it becomes a win-win situation. Drugging them into
compliance will only create a defiance of unprecedented proportions. America
has witnessed so-called phenomena of violent students. Drugging our children
has done little to alleviate violence in the schools.

In a book called “Reclaiming Our Children” (Perseus, 2001)
by Dr. Peter R. Breggin, author of “Your Drug May Be Your Problem” (Perseus,
1999) and “Talking Back to Ritalin” (Common Courage, 1998), we are told that
the violent youngsters involved in school shootings are usually under
psychiatric care and prescribed medicine. Breggin writes that, “The most
despairing and violent of our children reflect the underlying disorder of the
society: the alienation and abandonment of our children. We must utterly reject
the idea that the problem lies in our children’s brains or bodies, or that we
need to focus on diagnosing individual children. Instead, we need to identify
the breakdown of relationship with our children in our homes, schools and
community, and then to come together as adults dedicated to making ourselves
and our institutions more able to serve the needs of our children.”

It may be true that many children need medication, as do
adults. But, I believe it is far more important to educate our educators to be
sensitive to the students than to mass medicate.  We should have a whole-child
approach in understanding the student before we prescribe drugs and label them.

I run a day care center and private elementary school. I
have learned that children march to different drums. One of the ways we deal
with problematic children is with a mentoring system. We solicit seniors and
grandparents who are talented, but have graduated from the work field. These
volunteers come into the school once or twice a week to spend a few hours
mentoring children. They do this in a supervised area under the guidance of our
school principal and teachers. Our methods of having the child overcome his/her
so-called problem is by receiving extra attention and one-to-one instruction.

You can’t imagine the joy we have observing the success rate
between the student and their mentor. The retired mentor has a purpose and the
children receive a great boost, enabling them to continue within the school
system. This may be an alternative to medicating youngsters.

Let’s keep the innocence of children alive by providing them
with the rich opportunities of sensitive teachers and safe schools.   

Basketball and Life


"Be Quick — But Don’t Hurry: Finding Success in the Teachings

of a Lifetime" by Andrew Hill with John Wooden

(Simon & Schuster, $20)

Andrew Hill should be considered a very lucky man. The 50-year-old Los Angeles native played basketball at UCLA in the 1970s under the auspices of John Wooden, one of the school’s greatest coaches. Hill won three championship rings with UCLA but left the university with a chip on his shoulder and a deep misunderstanding of the coach who would later become his greatest mentor.

Hill went on to become president of productions at CBS and president of programming at the student-oriented Channel One Network, never fully conscious of the role that the coach’s teachings had played in his life.

One sunny day while facing down a 210-yard, 2-iron golf course, a friend told him to keep his balance, something that Wooden had always stressed. Hill, who described his experience on the golf course as an epiphany, wanted to reconnect with the man he had so deeply misunderstood in his youth.

Hill picked up the phone and tracked down Wooden. The coach embraced his former pupil as though he had been waiting for him all along.

The reunion went so well that Hill took to calling Wooden "coach" and was inspired to share Wooden’s teachings and philosophies with others in his new book, "Be Quick — But Don’t Hurry."

"Life is precious," Hill says. If you have an opportunity to "reach out to the older people in your life, [you should]."

"Be Quick" begins with a forward by Wooden outlining his "Pyramid to Success" based on his years of coaching — loyalty and friendship are two elements that form the foundation, while faith and patience sit at the zenith due to their deep moral value.

Hill outlines 21 secrets he’s learned from experiences with Wooden and explores how each relates to basketball and life.

Secret No. 9, titled "A Great Leader Cannot Worry About Being Liked," focuses on the very crux of Hill’s early contentions with Wooden.

Hill writes candidly about how Wooden was not well liked by his players and that Wooden expected his players not to like him. The coach’s focus was on the greater picture, winning national championships. He didn’t care about the feelings of the players who sat on the bench and whined or those who didn’t like the way Wooden talked to them.

According to Hill, Wooden had realized that "feelings get hurt and lives are disrupted, but the ability to make those tough choices is essential to being an effective leader."

If he had to pick one secret from his book to emphasize, Hill says, "focusing on effort, not winning" is the most important, because "we live in a society in which we always keep score."

A basis of Wooden’s teachings, according to Hill, is that the focus on the effort required to do something "frees you from the result." But Hill continues to struggle with aspects higher on Wooden’s pyramid, like patience.

Each of the 21 secrets helps elaborate and provide examples for Wooden’s philosophy, adding imagery and establishing connections between his concepts and the two men responsible for the book.

Hill says that you must buy into Wooden’s whole idea of the pyramid in order to achieve balance in your life, adding that if "you gave your best effort, you have succeeded."

Beyond the Glass Ceiling


When word got out last week that Janet Engelhart had been named executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island – making her the only woman professional at the helm of one of the 40 largest federations – she received a flood of phone calls.

Most were colleagues and friends offering congratulations. But more than five – and the ones that Engelhart found most touching – were from young women professionals at Jewish organizations asking her to be their mentor.

As Engelhart’s sudden popularity illustrates, female role models are in short supply, both in the Jewish federation world and at the highest tiers of other Jewish organizations.But a new initiative – the first effort launched by a new federation system offshoot, the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy – is seeking to change that.

With a $1 million seed grant from Barbara and Eric Dobkin, New York philanthropists known for their support of Jewish feminist causes, the project aims to help the organized Jewish community “identify, attract, recruit, advance and retain women in management and executive positions.”

The initiative – called Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community – capitalizes on another concern that has seized the attention of leaders throughout the Jewish world: the growing shortage of qualified Jewish communal professionals.

By recruiting women more aggressively, the reasoning goes, the pool of candidates will effectively double.Jewish organizations, say the initiative’s proponents, have trailed the business world and other nonprofits in advancing women and have created a climate in which mid-level women professionals believe they must leave the field in order to advance.

“Virtually every profession and industry has moved more quickly and more effectively on opening opportunities to women at top levels than the Jewish communal world,” said Louise Stoll, chief operating officer of the federation system’s national umbrella, United Jewish Communities (UJC).

Hired in 1999, Stoll is the first woman to hold so high a position in the federation world.

Shifra Bronznick, a consultant who helps facilitate change at not-for-profit organizations and is widely credited with designing the new initiative, points out that women hold 51 percent of all CEO posts at foundations and are growing more visible in the corporate world.

In contrast, only two of 40 major national Jewish organizations, excluding women’s organizations, are run by women, according to Bronznick.

Before Engelhart’s hiring in Rhode Island, only one other woman had held a top position at a federation of that size, and it is believed that a woman has never been the top executive at any of the 19 largest federations in North America.

The new initiative seeks to persuade leaders of national, regional and local Jewish organizations to make hiring women a greater priority.

Specifically, it will create a talent bank to identify potential women candidates from within and outside the Jewish community, assist organizations seeking to recruit women, track which organizations are more successful than others at hiring and retaining women, and establish a training program for both male and female senior management candidates.

It is not clear why women are so poorly represented in top Jewish professional circles.

While there is much talk of glass ceilings and some talk of old boys’ networks, few blame the inequity on overt sexism. Indeed, many Jewish organizations say they would like to hire more women but have difficulty finding enough qualified female candidates.

However, UJC’s Stoll said that “resistance has been very strong” to accommodating women at top levels and that it is common to hear comments such as, “I can’t send a woman to deal with that solicitation. He’ll do better with a man.”

But some women in the field – while supportive of the new initiative – suggest that it is not necessarily discrimination that dissuades women from seeking top positions.

Shula Bahat, acting executive director of the American Jewish Committee, which she said has made recent strides in recruiting women for top lay and professional roles, said she knows of several situations where women were considered for executive jobs but took their hats out of the ring to leave more time for family.Ironically, the concern about the dearth of women in top posts comes at a time when other Jewish spheres are reporting a shortage of men.

A recent study found that with the exception of the Orthodox world, women participate more in adult Jewish learning than men. Another study – on Jewish teens – found that boys are less likely than girls to join youth groups or attend religious school while in high school.

Some have speculated about a “feminization” of Jewish life, saying that as Judaism has become more open to women, it is being devalued by – and abandoned by – men.

The new initiative’s backers say they are not worried this will happen in the upper echelons of Jewish organizations.

“I think that when wonderful leaders head up institutions, everyone wants to be a part of them,” Bronznick said.

Coping on Two Continents


Since being diagnosed with diabetes in 1997, two developments have brought 14-year-old Cesar Chavira closer to leading a life like that of his Hollywood High peers: an insulin pump, which provides a continual dosage that lasts all day, and the Sponsorship for Adolescents with Diabetes, which has paired him up with a diabetic mentor.

The good news for other local diabetic teens is that now the Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership — an agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — will help Dr. Beverly Daley, creator of Sponsorship, extend her crusade. Co-sponsored by the Federation, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the Bob Shapell School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University and the Ministry of Social Welfare of Tel Aviv, the Partnership’s new exchange program provides Daley an avenue to consult with Israeli researchers, who already operate a mentorship program patterned after her brainchild.

“The reason the Jewish Federation selected the program to be part of the Partnership is because of its potential for building Jewish identity,” says Daley. “There are many young adults who have become so assimilated that they’re participation in Jewish life is marginal.”

Ever since pursuing her doctorate at USC, Daley has led a tireless campaign to understand and combat diabetes.

“Diabetes is an insidious disease,” says Daley. “It’s a leading cause of death and disability here and in Israel, often leading to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness.”

Daley adds that teens are especially vulnerable to the disease’s psychologically traumatic aspects, as they must undergo a complex daily routine of insulin shots, blood-sugar-level monitoring and special diet and exercise patterns.

In 1986, with Children’s Hospital, Daley launched Sponsorship for Adolescents with Diabetes, using Alcoholics Anonymous and Big Brothers/Big Sisters as templates. Daley enlisted “young professionals with diabetes in their 20s or 30s … to serve as role models and educate and inspire the teen-agers. What we’re hoping to achieve with the kids is the self-esteem and the optimism that comes from realizing that diabetes does not stand in the way of their goals.”

Three months ago, Daley paired Chavira with Andy Leisner, an advertising manager at Cycle World magazine.

“We get along very, very well,” Chavira says of his mentor, whom he views as a big brother. “I don’t have very many friends, so to have a friend like Andy is totally cool.”

Chavira especially appreciates Leisner’s perspective on living with diabetes.

“There should definitely be more programs like this,” says the teen. “It would definitely benefit many people.”

Maria Traferro agrees. At age 13, she spent a year in Daley’s program, going to Magic Mountain and the movies with mentor Kristina Keefe. Five years later, Traferro still gets together with Keefe, and, despite their age difference, the 18-year-old considers her adult patron “a very good friend. I look up to her and admire her…. [She’s] helped me realize that I’m capable of taking care of myself.”

And while Keefe, a graphics business entrepreneur, originally participated with the intention of inspiring a teen, the experience has inspired her as well.

“I was always hesitant in public with my diabetes,” says Keefe. “Being with Maria, we sit down at a table, shooting up with our insulin, testing our blood sugar. So that was a big help for me.”

One person who values Daley’s program is Jerry Rogoway, the Partnership’s project committee chair. As a youth, he watched his grandfather die from diabetes. And now that medical advances help keep the devastating effects of diabetes at bay, Rogoway knows that teens must find the key to living with the disease.

“When juveniles are diagnosed,” says Rogoway, “they feel that their life is over. A program such as this one lets them know that, even though there are restrictions, they can live a generally normal life.”

Keefe says: “The neat thing about the program is that the kids and the adults can see that it’s not just about diabetes. It’s about developing friendships. Sometimes diabetes doesn’t even come up in conversation. It’s more about the kids seeing that you’re out there, living your life, and that diabetes doesn’t have to be all consuming.”

In 1988, Daley officially established the Sponsorship with grants from the Diabetes Research and Education Foundation and the American Diabetes Association. Surprisingly, since that time (Tel Aviv University notwithstanding), a diabetic mentorship, to Daley’s knowledge, has never been implemented elsewhere.

“I’m disappointed because we really would like to be a model for other centers,” says Daley. “But I’m just ecstatic that it’s finally happening in Israel … One of the most prominent features of society in Israel is community support. This program complements that cultural value.”

So far, there has been no shortage of volunteers in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, it’s been a different story locally. Daley has found plenty of interested Jewish teen-agers around Los Angeles but few Jewish professionals willing to befriend them.

“I cannot say it enough,” says Daley, urging prospective mentors to apply. “We need a strong response.”

For more information on the Sponsorship for Adolescents with Diabetes, contact Dr. Beverly Daley at (323) 669-2490 or bdaley@chla.usc.edu.


‘We Made Him a Symbol’


Even the weather suggested mourning; at the Jordanian Embassy in northwest Washington, a cold drizzle turned the adjacent construction sites into mud holes, and a large portrait of King Hussein, who died on Sunday, was streaked with rain. Still, a steady procession of mourners entered the blocklike Mediterranean-style building and waited to sign a condolence book.

Limor Hasson, who works a few doors away, at the Israeli Embassy, was one of the first.

“He was an enemy who realized there is another way,” she said. “Once he turned onto that path, he kept walking.”

But she described an emotional connection to the late king that went beyond his actions as the leader of a country and his mixed record of peacemaking.

“What made him special weren’t his words and deeds, but the fact that he was a king for 47 years and still was so human to so many people,” she said. “That’s why people like me feel the loss so deeply.”

Much of the American Jewish community shared that feeling. King Hussein — because of his personality, his Western demeanor, his flawless English, his empathy and, some say, his weakness — touched a deep vein of emotion for many American Jews.

“For years, we have projected our hopes for Israel’s neighbors onto him,” said Martin Raffel, associate executive vice-chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “That’s not to say he was perfect; but because of his personality, because of the gestures he made, we made him a symbol.”

John Fishel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said, “We are saddened by the death of a true friend of Israel and peace loving people in the region.”

President Clinton, who found in King Hussein a mentor, a friend and an antidote to a cast of Mideast characters that many in his administration regard as unwilling or unable to reverse generations-old animosities, may have done the same thing.

Peace-process critics turn the same feelings around; Hussein became an icon, they say, because American Jews are so desperate to believe there are moderate leaders in the Arab world that they overlook much of the king’s history, including his decision to join the Arab attack on Israel in 1967 and his support for Saddam Hussein in 1991.

King Hussein allowed American Jews and policy makers alike to see the Middle East as they wanted to see it, not as it was, they argue.

Still, even pro-Israel hard-liners found in King Hussein a symbol they could relate to.

“The enduring appeal of the king is that he was deeply civilized, a word that we can’t easily apply to other Arab leaders,” said Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum. “While he took steps that were tough or wrongheaded, he was someone we in the West could connect to.”

Jewish leaders across the spectrum agree that the late Jordanian monarch took on an importance to American Jews that went well beyond the details of his 1994 treaty with Israel.

“King Hussein reached iconic status because he embodied the hope for a real peace between Israel and the Arab world, not merely the hope for a cease-fire or a chilly peace,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Like numerous other Jewish commentators, he cited Hussein’s shiva call to the families of the Naharayim massacre victims two years ago.

“King Hussein, like Anwar Sadat, had the ability to step into our shoes long enough to understand what it would take to make peace,” Harris said. “The Jewish community responded with almost unconditional approval.”

The imagery was stronger still because American Jews find it hard to envision other Arab leaders — including Yasser Arafat, who cannot separate himself from his terrorist past, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who has transformed Anwar Sadat’s visionary peace into a frigid peace of expedience — making such gestures.

The Western-oriented, urbane, diminutive Hussein was the perfect palliative; once he made peace with Israel in 1994, his emotional value to Jews soared.

“We have a need for someone who is upstanding and praiseworthy in the Moslem Middle East,” said the Middle East Forum’s Pipes. “And he was the only one we could reasonably turn to.”

“What I loved about the man is that he demonstrated the ability to change deeply held views, just as Anwar Sadat did,” said Ted Mann, co-chair of the Israel Policy Forum, a pro-peace-process group. “It was a quality that gave many of us hope for the future.”

But the veneration of King Hussein also reflects a reluctance among American Jews to confront a Middle East in which he was the exception, not the rule, said Steven Cohen, a social psychologist who has spent decades applying his skills to conflict resolution in the Middle East and now serves as vice chair of the Center for Mideast Peace and Economic Cooperation.

“His imagery was mixed,” he said. “He was a benign presence, but we also have to put in parenthesis that he was weak — not weak as a person, but as a leader of a country that was weak and not threatening. He became a symbol of the fact that peace is possible, but, underneath, there was the idea of peace being possible only with someone whose demands you can always turn aside without cost.”

The reality, he said, is that Israel will have to make peace with Arafat and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad or their successors, and American Jews will have to come to terms with Middle Eastern leaders they may find distasteful.

Hussein’s death, he said, “leaves a big, emotional vacuum in the Jewish world.”

But that sounds like a particularly desperate kind of wishful thinking, critics on the right say — although most were quiet this week in the wake of the king’s death and the international outpouring of admiration for the man.

“It was a negative kind of symbolism because it showed how much we want to believe there are moderate, open-minded forces in the Arab world,” said an official with a Jewish organization that has been critical of recent Israeli-Palestinian agreements. “He was the only one they could point to as even a possibility. When you’re grasping for straws, he was the only one within reach.”

The king’s image may have been comforting, this analyst said, but “it does not provide the basis for sound national policy.”

Other Voices


There’s nothing so intoxicating as when a mentor singles you out,shining the warm light of approval all over you.

When that mentor is an older man and you, the student, a youngwoman, you’ve just mixed up a potent sexual-charge cocktail. Don’tdrive home. Your depth perception is probably compromised, and if youcrash, you’re going to need a really good lawyer.

This older man could be a professor, religious leader, director orother accomplished authority figure. Or this man could be the leaderof the free world. Just for example.

It seems you can’t throw a cat without hitting a story aboutMonica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who may or may nothave engaged in untoward relations with President Clinton. We maynever know exactly what transpired between the two, but it hascaptured the world’s attention more than any other of the president’salleged dalliances with the opposite sex.

Among other factors, it’s Lewinsky’s tender age — 21 at the startof the alleged affair — and the gaping power imbalance between thetwo that make this story so gripping.

I don’t think that I’m the only woman in Lewinsky’s age range whocan relate to her, or at least to the media’s suggestion that thisyoung woman was plucked from intern obscurity, made to feel specialby an important older man. She may have been so taken with theattention that she dispensed with ethical conduct, tossing it intothe air like that stupid-looking beret we’ve all seen her in amillion times. Or maybe nothing happened, and we’re all just wantonlyspeculating.

In any case, the Pygmalion complex is powerful and omnipresent.Just think Woody Allen, Pablo Picasso, Frank Sinatra, Donald Trump,Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty.

What ego candy does this situation offer the man? Perhaps itreinforces his vitality, makes him feel wise and fatherly, provideshim an adoring, pliable and easily impressed sexual partner. I canonly guess. What I do know is that when someone you respect or evenidolize doles out attention and perhaps even the possibility forcareer advancement, it’s an overwhelming feeling.

In one case, a college writing teacher invited me to lunch afterclass. He praised my work and offered to help me get a paid summerwriting job to supplement my meager ice-cream-scooping income. When Ileft that lunch, I felt what could only be described as a monstercrush. My heart was pounding, and I wanted to tell everyone. I hadbeen chosen, and I was so flattered that I fell in love, not in asexual way but in a grateful way, like a drowning woman falls in lovewith a lifeguard.

Illustration by Norman Rockwell for “Louisa May Alcott; MostBeloved American Writer,” Women’s Home Companion, December 1937-March1938. From “The Norman Rockwell Treasury,” 1979.

That professor never made any sexual advances toward me. In fact,he did nothing but continue to encourage me and bolster myconfidence, forever removing me from a life as the world’s mostdisgruntled ice cream scooper. Still, I always felt this odd sexualtension, a compulsion to wow this man with my work and a sudden,unexplainable need to get up early before his class to iron myclothes and put on lipstick.

There have been other male mentors more inclined to cap off ourmutual respect with the old Eliza Doolittle shuffle. I have resisted,maybe in large part for fear of being a sucker, of falling for themyth that sleeping with a talented man somehow imbues me with histalents. It does not. I know this to be true.

I dated an astrophysicist for three years, and you don’t see mesmashing any atoms; I still have trouble with long division. I fellin love with a singer and remained really, really tone deaf. Aftersix months with a financial planner, I was still bouncing checks andusing unread bank statements as note paper. If brilliance by osmosisworked, there would be a lot of supermodels around with rock ‘n’ rollcareers.

Still, it’s a tempting shortcut. And why wouldn’t someone talentedbe an appealing mate? I’m not dismissing that. I’m simply saying thatit’s easy to confuse an infatuation based on flattery and fantasywith a viable relationship.

That brings me back to Lewinsky. Whatever she did or didn’t dowith Clinton behind closed doors did not make her the leader of thefree world or the recipient of someone’s long-term affection.

It did make her confused, reportedly “emotionally embattled,”famous, and the proud owner of one very busy lawyer.


Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer forThe Jewish Journal.

All rights reserved by author.

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